Monday, October 6, 2008

A heavenly experience

What is the definition of the term Nebula? Somewhere in the deep recess of my mind the word rang a bell, but ask me the meaning on that term on that hot humid after noon as we drove down from Panjim to Mapusa, and I would have snapped off your head. I was hungry, tired and on the look out for a decent place to eat.

‘I have heard of a place Nebula,’ Joe said pacifically, ‘it is on the road to Mapusa after you cross the junction that branches off onto the Highway.’

‘Have you heard of the highway to Hell?’ I growled, ‘and you are talking about the heavenly aspirations…there is not a single decent eating joint between Porvorim and Mapusa…at least I have not heard of one…so please do enlighten me, and don’t go onto your heavenly course,’ the sarcasm dripped with every word.

Now after 25 years of dealing with every mood, Joe knew when to remain silent. I guess most men become wise at that age…and are often labeled ‘hen-pecked.’ I guess it is a sense of deeper maturity…’silence is the only weapon.’

It seemed to be working, because my tirade fell on deaf ears. I watched sourly as he steered the car down a small driveway just after the intersection, to a building called La Mansion. Way up on the second floor full length glass windows reflected the afternoon sunlight. ..Nebula lounge Bar and Restaurant.

After a host of smiling people…no they are not the serafins and cherubs, of the heavenly abode, but it was indeed a pleasure to see people greet you with smiling faces in the off season, we were shown the way to the second floor and were seated at the bay windows while the waiter offered the bar card.

How do I explain the view that greeted my moody demeanor? The green expanse of cultivated fields, the swaying coconut trees to some silent music and the cluster of cottages in the background. What a sight for sore eyes. My senses tuned in with Mother nature…I was back to my quiet normal self. To add to that the cool interiors done in shades of lemon and ochre would soothe the feelings of anyone on a hot afternoon.

We met with Mr Krishna Menon, Business Development Officer who has the task of setting up the first venture of the Mennen aviation and Hospitality Ltd. Enterprise. He has just taken over the reins after working at Radisson and doing his further studies in Singapore with a Masters in Hospitality in UK.

‘We are in the process of doing up the existing menu,’ he ventures, ‘and offer those dishes in addition to the existing one to our guests.’

So what did he recommend? For starters out came the soup and appetizers. ‘Our chefs are trained in Thai, Chinese, Indian and Continental,’ he says. We take a sip of the clear lemon coriander soup with chicken. The slivers of carrots cut like Christmas trees, the celery stalks and the chicken cubes all added to the tantalizing flavor….what a light and refreshing combo for a hot day. But it was the chicken Momos that had you begging for more. Cruz Marchon the Asst Food & Bev Manager who joined us explained how to get the maximum of that preparation. ‘Cut the Momo and put the Szechwan sauce onto the mince,’ he advised, ‘and then take a sip of the accompaniment.’ The accompaniment was an egg soup…we tried the combo, silence as the flavors vied with each other, and then gave a deep sigh of appreciation as a chorus of heavenly sounds began playing in my mind. Now that dish is something to die for.

But we were not allowed to linger onto that ecstatic realm. The kebabs…now beside the normal kebabs available in every joint, this chef seems to have escaped the Afghan war and found tranquility in Goa. The Afghani kebabs that reached the table….let me talk about the Sholay Kebab..Jai and Viru wrapped in a warm embrace with the Thakur…so close was their bonding. Aha! Got you there didn’t I? But the bonding of coriander and egg which coated a deep fried chicken tikka will definitely make you say…Arre Samba! Delicious. I am also given to understand that the HIMAYUN KEBAB…no I am not shouting, it is spelt like this on the menu…cause it could make you shout for more. Chicken mince rolled in a chicken breast. But I am digressing. The meat balls in hot garlic sauce is another dish worth recommending, but now let me talk about the main course.

I am a person who loves change (the only thing I have not changed over 25 years is my husband), anyway…especially when it comes to food, I would not like to stick to traditional fare, there is so much more to be enjoyed in life. The staff seems to have read my mind. Out comes the thick greenish brown Chettinad Chicken. Now that recipe seems to have been got right out from the specialists in Chennai. The spicy overtones blended well with the chicken…my favorite for the month.

We were by now stuffed to the gills. I am sure as explained by Cruz, there are many other dishes to try out…but there are limits for one afternoon. I am given to understand that the Dy. High Commissioner from UK was so thrilled with the food that she called from the airport to say how pleased she was with the experience. Now that I say is good PR for Goa.

We ended our sojourn on a sweet note. Cruz Marchon playing the tempter, with the Malabia…the ultimate Temptation! Cream, milk, vanilla and rose water overloaded with pistachios. Damn that diet. I could hear the song playing at the back of my mind…I’m in heaven…I’m in heaven. Was it frank Sinatra or Connie Francis? Who cares! Seated in Nebula you are in heaven.

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